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Snow Levels Are Just Average

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Original Title:
Despite Recent Storms, Sierra Snowpack at Average Level

Halfway through winter in 2006, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was slightly below historical averages for that time of year, according to state hydrologists.

Five times a year the Department of Water Resources takes manual snowpack measurements at selected sites in the Sierra. The readings complement dozens of permanent electronic sensors that monitor snowpack conditions.

Early in February of 2006 the second reading of the season was taken at Phillips Station off US-50 about 90 miles east of Sacramento. The snow at the 6,800-foot survey site was measured at 56 inches with a water content of 20.2 inches. Those numbers were 103 percent of the long-term average.

The US-50 survey numbers indicated a slightly better picture than the previous month. At that time hydrologists reported the snowpack was 92 percent of average following a week's worth of storms between Christmas and New Year's. Most of the storms in Northern California in the 2006 season were warm storms bringing more rain than snow.

Crews also surveyed three other sites in February. At Tamarack Flat, the lowest elevation at 6,500 feet, the snowpack is 98 percent of normal. The snow depth was measured at 57.5 inches and water content was 18.6 inches. Lyons Creek, located at 6,700-foot elevation, reported 58.5 inches of snow with 17.7 inches of water content. Those measurements were 90 percent of the average reading for that time of year.

The highest elevation surveyed was 7,600-foot Alpha. The snow depth there was 61.6 feet with a water content of 20.3 inches. The readings were 96 percent of average.

Using electronic sensor measurements, the DWR also compiled information on Sierra snowpack per three major regions. Those readings showed the northern Sierra snowpack water content was 111 percent of average, the central Sierra at 121 percent and the southern Sierra was at 133 percent.

The DWR's Frank Gehrke, who oversaw the snowpack surveys, said, "It looks like we're having a normal year so far and there's nothing on the immediate horizon that indicates we'll see any major changes."

The DWR uses the snowpack measurements to prepare annual water supply forecasts and help power companies determine how much hydroelectric power can be produced.

State hydrologists took three more manual measurements through April of 2006.

More than one-third of California's population relies on the Sierra snowpack for water and irrigation needs.

(This story was provided by News10 Rewrite.)

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